I'm a strong believer that almost any place can be interesting
Alumnus and travel vlogger Tim Byrne, aka ‘The Tim Traveller’, talks about his passion for exploring the world’s quirkiest corners.
Can you briefly explain the concept behind your YouTube channel, what was the inspiration behind creating it?
It’s a nerdy travel channel, all about quirky places with unusual stories – like the island that switches between France and Spain every six months, or why there’s a completely fake building at 145 rue La Fayette. Basically, imagine one of the QI Elves goes backpacking, and you’ve pretty much understood the channel.
And honestly, it was a wild punt more than anything! In 2018, I’d just quit my job to go travelling for a while. So why not make some videos about my adventures? I’d always wanted to have a go at YouTube, and I figured, even if nobody else ever watches them, at the very least I’d have some great memories to look back at.
You’ve gained 240,000 subscribers on your channel. How does this community inform your content and interact with you?
Yes, it’s way more than I ever expected. Firstly, it means I have to put more and more hours into research! Each video is like submitting a dissertation to 240,000 lecturers. Get the slightest thing wrong, and someone out there will let you know.
But honestly, the community is fantastic. I have an extremely positive and intelligent bunch of viewers, and the ones who get involved in the comments section entertain me as much as the other way round. Plus they give me ideas! People always send messages saying “oh if you liked that place, here’s somewhere else you really need to go”. Two weeks later I’ve gone there and made a video about it. And then the cycle starts again…
Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited? And the place that has surprised you the most?
I can’t pick one! I’m a strong believer that almost any place can be interesting. Then again, you’re talking to someone who flew to the Sahara just to see the world’s longest conveyor belt.
How did you adapt your passion for travelling during the pandemic?
Same as everyone else – I had to stop doing it. If you look back, you can see the moment where my channel suddenly switches from “international globetrotting” to nearly every video being about France. It was frustrating, but I was fortunate – at least I still had a job. I just had to dig up interesting stories around Paris instead.
Where is next on your list to visit?
I have a to-do list with about 100 locations on it! But I have to be honest, I’ve barely seen my friends and family in two years. If we can travel more freely this year, I’ll be planning my filming trips so I can go and spend time with everyone I’ve missed. A plus point of studying at ULIP is you end up with friends in all sorts of wonderful places…
You graduated in 2004 with a BA in French Studies. How was your experience studying at ULIP and in Paris and what did you gain from having a ULIP degree?
I loved it! I remember having to grow up very quickly – you’ve just left home for the first time, and suddenly you’re in another country, trying to find: 1. a place to live, 2. a social life, and more than likely 3. a part time job to help finance the first two. That’s pretty hardcore! But if you can get past that initial challenge, it’s a fantastic experience.
And after university, I found the ULIP degree really helps you stand out in job interviews. That combination of “University of London” with the magic words “In Paris” puts you ahead of the queue for all sorts of roles, not just the ones you’d think. My first job was in marketing, despite knowing absolutely nothing about marketing! It was a UK company who wanted to sell to France, and it was much easier for them to hire a French speaker and train them on the job, than hire a marketing graduate and try to teach them French.
I’m not saying everyone should go into marketing – in fact I’d understand if you don’t want ANY career advice from someone who quit his job to start a flipping YouTube channel – but it’s a degree that gives you an edge, whatever career path you want to take.
Follow Tim on his adventures on his YouTube channel, The Tim Traveller.